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We are a College of Sanctuary

29th February 2024 – Tags: ESOL

City College Norwich has been designated as a College of Sanctuary in recognition of the support and culture of welcome we provide to students who are recent arrivals from countries affected by war and conflict.  

City College Norwich, which has a long history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, is one of only 19 colleges nationally to hold College of Sanctuary accreditation.  

In recent years the college has seen growing demand for its English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, and for the specialist, multi-agency, support needed for young people who are from sanctuary seeking backgrounds. 

The college has already welcomed 268 asylum seekers and refugees onto its ESOL courses this academic year, with new students being enrolled every 4 weeks so they do not have a long wait to begin their learning journey with the college.  

A key change in recent years has been the increasing number of sanctuary seeking students who have arrived in the UK without a parent or carer – termed Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASCs) - notably from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Sudan, as well as many Kurdish young people.

Some of the large team at City College Norwich who are involved in supporting sanctuary seeking students.

Some of the large team at City College Norwich who are involved in supporting sanctuary seeking students.

Multi-agency support  

The college’s approach to supporting young people who are seeking sanctuary is continuously developing through a Trauma Informed Practice approach.  

A multi-agency approach sees the college working with the Virtual School for Norfolk, bringing social workers and residential support workers on site so that UASC students have access to wrap-around support from college services and from their home and corporate parent.  

Each UASC student is allocated an Education Support Worker, who gets to know the student as well as their supporting professionals, so that a holistic and joined-up support package is in place for each young person.  

This support is complemented by the college’s vastly experienced ESOL teaching team, who continually adapt their courses to meet the changing needs of the students. Tutorial Supervisors support students with attendance, behaviour and emotional needs, as well as providing tutorial support for their learning and future career and higher education planning.    

The college cricket team is one of the sporting activities that is bringing sanctuary seeking and home students together.

The college cricket team is one of the sporting activities that is bringing sanctuary seeking and home students together.

Opportunities to integrate  

Alongside the tailored support provided to asylum seeker students, the college creates opportunities for these students to integrate with the wider college community. 

With the support of the college’s Student’s Union, culture days have brought students from different cultures together in a celebration of food, dance and music. 

Refugee Week has provided another opportunity for the college to celebrate the diversity of its student body, with events in the reception areas of each campus. A new college cricket team, launched last year, has been another successful initiative that has brought together asylum seeker students and home students, tapping into the strong passion for the game among students from Afghanistan. 

Following student feedback, the college has plans to create additional opportunities to bring together students from different backgrounds through art, music and sport, including a new women’s football team.  

Our College of Sanctuary certificate.

Our College of Sanctuary certificate.

Joining a network of colleges 

To become a College of Sanctuary, colleges must provide evidence of having met or made progress against 12 key criteria, ranging from the support provided to students from a sanctuary seeking background, to awareness-raising activities for staff and students, and developing a culture of welcome.   

Colleges of Sanctuary are a network of Further Education college staff, teachers and students working together to make education inclusive and empowering for all. The initiative is backed by City of Sanctuary UK, under which Norwich has City of Sanctuary status.  

Helen Richardson-Hulme, Assistant Principal Student Services, commented: 

Our commitment to providing sanctuary seeking students with a warm welcome and the specialist support they need to succeed is underpinned by the considerable experience of our ESOL teachers and support staff, and awareness-raising work with the whole of our college community.      


This is an area in which we are continually learning and developing, as we adapt to the ever-changing needs of sanctuary seeking students, including those who are unaccompanied asylum seeker children. 


Achieving College of Sanctuary status recognises the strengths of our work in this area, the feedback from sanctuary seeking students themselves, and our plans to develop this work even further. It is great to be part of a wider community of FE professionals, who are all learning together and sharing good practice.”